I was on travel just as season six of Game of Thrones was going to air and I didn’t want to wait till I got home 10 days latter. To fix this situation I ran down the street to the Wal-Mart Super store and picked up a 2nd gen Google Chromecast. I had been toying with the idea of getting one for a few years now and I finally had the excuse. Initially happy with my purchase I headed back to my room to set it up.
Initial setup was no problem, grab Google Cast from the play store https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.google.android.apps.chromecast.app, plug the Google Chromecast into a free HDMI port on the TV, switch the TV input to that HDMI port, plug the Google Chromecast into wall power or a free USB port on the TV.
I then fired up the Google Cast App and it found my virgin Cromecast waiting for instructions. I named it, Rumble, and setup the backdrop settings, and told it to use the Hotel’s Wi-Fi.
I was then presented with the “What’s On” page of the Cast App and tapped the trailer for the new Bourne movie. YouTube launched and I hit the Cast button, but I didn’t see Rumble. The TV was telling me that Rumble was connected to the Hotel’s WiFi but had no Internet connection. I tried resetting Rumble and that didn’t do anything, I even did a factory reset to no avail. The cause is that the hotel required that I accept their use agreement and log in with the password given to me by the front desk. I figured this was going to be part of setting up the Google Chromecast and a possible problem, but thought that Google would have thought about this and had put in a mechanism to work it – wrong. Fail Google, big epic fail! So I broke out Goolge and searched for “chromecast hotel wifi” to see what my fellow travelers had worked out; I found the following solutions that are well and good but did not prove to be solutions for me for one reason or another.
This one shows how to use Connectify to turn a laptop into a Wi-Fi router to connect the Chromecast to and use the Ethernet cable in the room. Looked to be viable; if I had a laptop.
This one shows how to use a “travel router” to do the same thing as the How-To Geek site but without having a laptop. Again though, I would need another piece of equipment that I didn’t have.
This one sounded like it would really be the hack I needed. Basically when you authenticate with another device that has a web browser you stay on the “thank you” page and look for a part of the URL that looks like a MAC address, then just replace that with the MAC of the Chromecast, click go, and boom the Chromecast would be authorized to access the Internet through the Hotel’s Wi-Fi. This didn’t work for me because the Hotel’s authentication didn’t present this opportunity.
This one goes over the travel router solution and the using another device as a Wi-Fi router, namely a smartphone as a Wi-Fi hotspot. Again didn’t have the router and using my phone as a hotspot wouldn’t work because to serve out Wi-Fi it wouldn’t be able to be connected to the Hotel’s.
This one just lists out the issues that I had been experiencing and listed a few features requests that the community should raise to Google. This did nothing but make me feel like I had company and stole five minutes of troubleshooting time.
This one is probably the best of them as it has a lot of good tutorials for different situations, combinations of the travel router and sharing other device network connections. But I would need another device.
After looking at these I came to the conclusion that the best option for me would be to go find a travel router, as getting a new laptop just to stream some Netflix and HBO would not be acceptable to the wife … that’s not fair it wasn’t acceptable to me too. A few shops popped up on Google Maps when I searched for “electronics” so I headed out on a second shopping trip. At my third and final stop I settled on an Apple Airport Express. I was rather sceptical about getting it; first off it was $100 bucks and second it’s an Apple product and despite the general consensus of Apple’s “It just works” mentality I didn’t think it would play nice with my HTC One M8 Android phone. Aaannd it didn’t! I wound up taking it back the next day.
Solution 1 – Tell the truth:
I called the support desk of the Internet Service Provider (ISP) and explained that I was trying to get my Chromecast to have Internet access but it didn’t have a web interface to let me authenticate. The tech asked what property I was at and room I was in. I then gave them the MAC and boom Rumble could see the Internet.
Solution 2 – Social engineering via sympathy:
I was mid way through my trip and I had to switch hotels. I tried to call the ISP support for the new hotel with great hopes that things would go as smooth as the last hotel, I was wrong. I was told by the tech that they did not allow devices like Chromecasts on their network for security reasons, to paraphrase, the interconnection the these devices are capable of can cause privacy concerns. That is a lame excuse in my opinion giving any network connection to individuals poses the same level of risk in a public setting no matter what device is connected. If I were to be malicious then I would have tools onboard that would get me around a login website. I don’t even know of any hacking that can be done via Chromecast or Roku, etc. but now my interest is peaked so I will do some searching. Anyway it was late so I just watched the Game of Thrones season 6 premier on my time phone display while cursing the lame excuse given by the ISP. The next morning I started thinking about what other type of devices require or at least have a Wi-Fi connection that they wouldn’t give me a lame excuse for. Thanks to #TheInternetOfThings there are lots of devices that should work for me. Also thanks to a recent purchse made by my parents which lead to their calling me for help and giving me the product that I would use. A Continuous Positive Air Pressure (CPAP) machine. See they have Wi-Fi now so it can send info that it collects about your sleeping trends, then a Doctor can adjust the machine to get an optimum setting without the patient going in for further sleep studies. So back from that tangent. I called up the ISP again and gave pretty much the same story about the device I had not having a web interface but needing an Internet connection, only this time the device is my CPAP that helps me breath at night and get a good night’s sleep. I figured hotels are supposed to help you get a good night sleep so it would be shared for them to refuse. I also figured that they wouldn’t have a MAC lookup table to see the manufacturer of the device. I was right and the tech hooked up the MAC of my Chromecast. The lesson learned is when you don’t get your way by telling the truth, slightly change the truth and you will probably make it through.
Making the decision to give up and call tech support is one of the hardest things to do, especially for us techies. I lucked out and the techs I got at both helpdesks were in the US, I assume this because they all spoke English like it was the only language they knew. They also didn’t waste my time by having me “Turn it off and on again”, or tell me it couldn’t be done – at least after I found the soft spot for the type of devices they would allow on the network. So if you can bring yourself to do it give tech support a call first and let them have 5 minutes, that is unless you can plan your trip to include the hardware you need.
In the future I plan on getting that TP-Link router mentioned in the Work Smart and Travel article which should be a good solution that will let me avoid the randomness of calling tech support. I do agree with John Falcone in the CNet article that Google needs to add the capability to supply authentication credentials for the Chromecast to use. How about embedding Chrome Browser into the Chromecast.